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Board Orders Resubmission of Financial Reports

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority was critical of first quarter financial reports submitted by the city, the school district and Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. The control board met Tuesday at the Buffalo Convention Center.

It's back to the drawing board for the city, school district and Housing Authority. All three have been asked to resubmit first quarter financial reports to the control board by December 1st.

Chairman Thomas Baker says the quarterly reports were not adequate and failed to give a clear financial outline to members. Baker was also upset with the reporting of another $2 million city budget gap. The board was certain the recently approved fiscal recovery plan that slashed jobs and spending curbed the shortfall. Finance commissioner James Milroy blames an outdated accounting system for failure to provide accurate budget numbers. But Baker says the explanation is "unacceptable."

"We are $2 million over. We didn't have a snow storm which we can't control. As I'm told, it is because one of the departments spent a whole lot of money on overtime," Baker said. "Is there any management going on out there?"

Baker says he wants the revised reports to be "more responsive" to the board's instructions and match the four-year recovery plan. Milroy says all non essential spending has been frozen to stop over spending. Board member Robert Wilmers was also critical of the reported budget gap.

"Given the state of our finances today, I find that a little disconcerting," Wilmers said. "You say we are $2 million in the hole. I think I'm willing to accept we are $2 million in the hole, but I'm not sure."

But Mayor Masiello defended his financial staffs efforts, and says he wanted to set the record straight.

"I don't want anyone here to think that Jimmy Milroy and the two to three people he had on his budget staff over the last several years are not working their rear ends off, because they have," Masiello said.

The control board was also critical of the Buffalo School District first quarter financial report. Board members felt the report was too brief and didn't follow instructions. But James Kane, executive assistant to the schools superintendent, says having some school staffers on the payroll for just 10-months out of the year changes budget numbers.

"In the first quarter, the district did not receive any threats or opportunities which would alter the districts 2003-04 budget," Kane said. "Budget transfers were made within the budget. However, nothing of significance was noted."

Control board members were also critical that it will take eight months for the district to hire a chief financial officer. They asked that the process be moved along.

Chair Thomas Baker also says the qualifications need to be much higher in order to hire the "best person possible."

In other action, the board approved the creation of a committee to explore and implement the take over of some city services by Erie County. Baker says the committee will include himself, Masiello and County Executive Giambra.